More Uses For The Cure’s “Disintegration”

From the curefans forum:;topicseen#msg771324

Good literature, art and music stays relevant for a long time after it was born, and can speak to new contexts as they arise.  You get this with Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, which, though over 150 years old now, still has so much of fundamental and timeless relevance to say about friendship, human beings and finding out you’ve had some basic things wrong for a long time, then admitting it and fixing it.  Same with Shakespeare – all the fundamental stuff about the human condition still applies, even if our costumes and stage props have changed since then.  Same with lots of books – and if anyone reading feels inclined to nominate a few, that would be lovely, because conversations are more interesting than monologues!  🙂

I’m currently revisiting The Cure’s Disintegration with a different context at the forefront of my mind, that I’ve not previously thought about while listening to the album, and that wasn’t a big public issue at the time of its release – it was an issue of concern to quite a few of us in the natural sciences though, even 30 years ago, and of course it got largely ignored by public policymakers and the media, although it is currently making inroads into general public consciousness because the long-predicted consequences are now starting to really bite – such as, in our country, with droughts and bushfires on an unprecedented scale.

I have often wondered why humans, who generally think themselves as a sort of pinnacle of evolution and as so wonderfully clever as a species, collectively behave just like bacteria – growing exponentially in population and in resource use until they exhaust the system they have exploited, and crash.  It is so sad to me that there are so many things we could have collectively done better, if only we’d used our brains, and cared enough to act en masse.  That we could have indeed made a better world, a fairer world, a kinder world, only we didn’t – social injustice is systemically worse than it was when I was born, with an even greater share of the resources in even fewer hands, and with political power ever more concentrated amongst fewer people, and public brainwashing through media with vested interests greater than ever and playing into the hands of the bullies who are in charge of the classroom.  Wilderness destruction, species extinctions and pollution are accelerating, and we’re now living in a chemical sewer, even in the supposed safety of our own homes.

The news isn’t all bad – apparently the rates of some crimes have actually decreased, and obviously it’s great to live in an era with good medicine and dentistry (for those of us who can afford it), and there are so many wonderful books and CDs coming out, and the Internet has put some power back in the hands of people, and there are actually a fair few fundamentally decent human beings in this world, which each of us will have our own subset of to love and cherish.

But in terms of the lifeboat we’re travelling in, where we are at is terribly depressing.  In our household we know, have known for a long time, I’ve worked professionally with that stuff, and both of us have seen things with our own eyes that shock us deeply.  What we generally do is the best we can, and not run commercial news media, and only run independent news media sometimes, and not spend too much time reading the fine details of the depressing stuff we already know about, other than so that we can adjust what we do ourselves – bad news, and disconcerting data, without practical consequences in our own actions are pretty worthless, as they only demoralise, and we’d like to keep our energy for doing actual useful stuff, and for actually enjoying the short time we each have on this planet.

However, over the past couple of weeks I’ve finally read Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything, five years after my husband did.  It’s basically the modern ecological companion piece to Rachel Carson’s classic Silent Spring.  The book tells me nothing new in broad terms, but I am learning some interesting things about how humans operate as a result of Ms Klein’s research and writing efforts, and about the whys and wherefores of the paralysis that’s followed climate science.

Naomi Klein is hopeful still.  Not everyone is – David Attenborough isn’t, for example, and I tend more towards his point of view, but while I feel this way, I still behave as if there is hope, because that’s to me the ethical choice even on a sinking boat.  Or maybe it’s because my Grade 1/2 teacher read us that fable about two frogs who fell in a bucket of milk, and they were both swimming all night, and eventually one of them gave up and drowned, while the other said, “Well, it probably is hopeless, but it doesn’t hurt me to keep swimming as long as I am physically able.”  And the frog’s swimming churned the milk, and as the fable goes, caused butter lumps to form, from which he was able to jump out of the bucket.  The science on that is a bit dodgy – both the butter making (you do that with cream) and that you could make enough to push off and that you could push off enough to get out of the bucket – but it’s a great story which still warms my heart, more than half a statistical human life span later.

If anyone wants a precis, this one is pretty much on the money, from where I am sitting:

But if you’d like some hope on top of harrowing reality, read Naomi Klein’s book instead.

So yes, this is tough stuff, and sad stuff, and when I’m grappling with things like that, certain kinds of music are helpful.

So I was listening to Disintegration this morning, as the mood suits grief and introspection, and it occurred to me that the particular thing I’m sad about that’s foregrounded for me at the moment is ecological disintegration, which is another aspect of a general theme.  While I don’t think that was an intended theme for this album when it was written, it just happens to fit the mood in many ways, and really, it’s the basic things in human nature which are dealt with on this album that have also led to the pickle we’re in on this particular front.

Plainsong, when I listened to it this morning – and normally, to me this is a very ecstatic song of bright light in overwhelming darkness – became like a lament for something beautiful that is dying, and you’re still celebrating its beauty with every breath it as yet takes.

I’m still listening, and may add more thoughts later.  But, I’m very grateful that music exists that allows us to work through very hard things emotionally, and that helps us see the beauty even in things that are dying.

And just because there should always be time for excellent live tracks – another song originally from Disintegration:

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